Aug 30, 2016

    West Ham's Antonio makes England squad


    SAM Allardyce marked his first squad announcement as England manager on Sunday by including uncapped West Ham United midfielder Michail Antonio in a 23-man party for Sunday's World Cup qualifier in Slovakia.

    Antonio was included on the same day he scored for the Hammers in their 3-1 loss away to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

    The 26-year-old has adjusted well to life in the Premier League since joining the Hammers from Nottingham Forest a year ago.

    He scored nine goals in 32 appearances for the London club last season, while his two most recent Hammers games have seen Antonio head in against both Bournemouth and City.

    "I think he's in outstanding form," Allardyce told the Football Association's website as he explained his decision to select Antonio. A few seasons ago, he was playing only non-league football for Tooting and Mitcham in south London.

    Jamie Vardy, a key figure in Leicester City's stunning Premier League title success last season, has already trodden the path from non-league to international football and the Foxes striker has also been included in Allardyce's first England squad.

    Now the manager is looking forward to seeing Antonio complete the same trip.

    "This is another lad with a great journey - it's a fantastic journey that he's been on, from non-league to now an international call-up.

    "He scored nine goals in his first season and he's a terrific athlete, a good crosser and a goal-scorer," Allardyce said.

    "I'm looking forward to him coming, and looking forward to meeting everybody. Hopefully, we will have a good few days' preparation and get to know each other on the basis of trying to go and win in Slovakia."

    Meanwhile, an emotional Antonio told West Ham's website: "I'm overwhelmed.

    "It's just one of those things that I've always dreamt of playing for England as a kid, so now for it to happen after I've worked my way from non-league to where I am now, I am just so happy."

    He added: "I turned down an approach from Jamaica in March and for this to happen so quickly, I'm buzzing!

    "I don't even know what happens here. I have been called up so I'll have to ask the boys what I have to do, because I don't know."